ABSECON — Holy Spirit High School baseball coach Jason Downey knows the Spartans have shortcomings.
He also knows there’s something special about them, too.
Steven Petrosh hit his first varsity home run to propel the Spartans to a 7-6 win over Buena Regional in a key Cape-Atlantic League United Division game Friday afternoon. Spirit (7-0) is ranked No. 9 in The Press Elite 11.
“There’s something about this group,” Downey said. “We’re not the most talented. We don’t play as crisp as we want to all the time. But somehow we keep finding ourselves on the positive end.”
Petrosh’s home run came in the sixth inning with the score tied.
The sophomore led off the inning and pulled the ball over the left-field fence.
“I was sitting fastball all the way,” Petrosh said. “I got my pitch and just did what I could do with it. This means a lot. I’ve been working hard.”
Both Spirit and Buena Regional (4-1) entered the game undefeated. Buena is ranked No. 11 in the Elite 11.
Considering both teams' solid credentials, the game was surprisingly sloppy in the early innings. Spirit finished with six errors, Buena four.
“It had moments where it looked like a Little League game,” Downey said. “Sometimes you can’t put your finger on what’s that all about. But there’s nerves. It’s a big game.”
Buena scored four runs in the fourth inning to take a 6-3 lead. Shortstop Julian Del Valle hit a two-run single in the inning.
But the Spirit offense put constant pressure on the Chiefs. The Spartans scored in five of the six innings in which they batted. Brandon Castellini was 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Jimmy Pasquale contributed an RBI double, while Shane Solari knocked in a run with a triple.
Castellini took the mound in relief in the fourth inning and restored order to the game. He did not allow a hit in the final three innings.
Petrosh didn’t think he had hit a home run when the ball left his bat. He sprinted around the bases only to slow to a trot when he heard the cheers, looked up and the saw the Buena left fielder standing at the fence.
Petrosh started at shortstop before moving to third base later in the game. He made back-to-back errors at short in the third inning.
“Picking up my teammates from that is huge for me," he said. "I just focused on the next play.”
With the lead, the Spartans needed one sparking defensive play during the Buena’s final at-bat to preserve the win.
With a runner on first and no outs in the top of the seventh, the Chiefs executed a hit-and-run.
The Buena batter hit a hard groundball up the middle. Castellini thought the worst.
“Honestly, I thought that ball was going up the middle,” he said. “I thought I was going to have to deal with a first-and-second or a first-and-third situation.”
But Spirit shortstop C.J. Egrie was headed to second base to cover the steal attempt. He fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and threw to first for the double play.
With the win, Spirit moved into first place in the division and took a big step toward earning an automatic berth in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, a May tournament that features 16 of South Jersey’s top teams.
“What I take from this is we don’t give up,” Castellini said. “We’re going to go far as a team. We didn’t give up.”
Buena;011 400 0—6 5 4
Holy Spirit;201 211 x—7 11 6
2B: Pasquale HS.
3B: Castellini, Solari HS.
HR: Petrosh HS.
WP: Castellini (1-0) LP: L. Sauri